From bedrock to alluvium: Considerations on human-lithic resource interaction

  • Zsolt Mester Eötvös Loránd University and Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique
  • Norbert Faragó Eötvös Loránd University
Keywords: siliceous rock occurrences; lithic raw material sources; OSA model of interaction; Palaeolithic; Neolithic; northern Hungary


Although lithic raw material provenience studies in Hungarian archaeology have started in the late 1970s, little attention has been paid to the methods prehistoric people with which acquired these raw materials for tool production. With our palaeoethnological approach, we investigate the relationship between human groups and the world surrounding them, aiming to recognize which environmental factors played a role in their lithic raw material economy and tool production. Prehistoric people weighed a range of such factors against each other when deciding about the utilization of a lithic raw material source. The occurrence-source-archaeological site (OSA) model presented in our article helps to describe the interaction between siliceous rock resources and humans. Any place where stone suitable for knapping can be found is considered to be an occurrence. If the lithic raw material from an occurrence is found in the archaeological material, we call it a source, as it was utilized by humans. All places where remains of human activity are found are usually considered archaeological sites. Siliceous rock occurrences are considered raw material sources with a long history prior to human interaction, travelling from the original bedrock to alluvial deposits, due to the geologic-geomorphologic processes of formation, transformation, and transport. The characteristics, of these occurrences, including location, determine not only the distance of transportation but also the quality and condition of the blocks available. Based on these assumptions our research has two aims: to locate lithic raw material occurrences available for prehistoric people and to recognize their decisions about extraction. For the first one, we mapped occurrences of several siliceous rocks in the region. To reconstruct lithic raw material utilization and preferences, we conducted a techno-economic analysis. We studied two areas and their characteristic lithic raw materials in northern Hungary: limnosilicite from the foothills of the Mátra mountain range (Mátraalja), and Buda hornstone or chert from the Buda Hills.

The utilization of both materials is documented at archaeological sites of several prehistoric periods. Both rocks occur in the study areas at several locations that can be considered prehistoric extraction sites. According to Turq’s source area typology, allochthonous sources are not present, but primary and secondary autochthonous as well as sub-allochthonous types have been identified in both areas. However, the exploitation of primary autochthonous limnosilicites could not be demonstrated in the Mátraalja. At the moment, the exploitation of secondary autochthonous and sub-allochthonous sources can be hypothesized for all concerned prehistoric periods.

Author Biographies

Zsolt Mester, Eötvös Loránd University and Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique

Institute of Archaeological Sciences
Eötvös Loránd University
Múzeum krt. 4/B
1088 Budapest

UMR 7194 Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique
CNRS/MNHN/UPVD, Institut de Paléontologie humaine
1 Rue René Panhard
75013 Paris

Norbert Faragó, Eötvös Loránd University

Institute of Archaeological Sciences
Eötvös Loránd University
Múzeum krt. 4/B
1088 Budapest


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How to Cite
Mester, Z., & Faragó, N. (2022). From bedrock to alluvium: Considerations on human-lithic resource interaction. Journal of Lithic Studies, 9(1), 44 p.
ISKM-2019 - Budapest Research Articles